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Rabbit-Proof Fence (film)

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Title: Rabbit-Proof Fence (film)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Phillip Noyce, National Board of Review Awards 2002, Rabbit-Proof Fence, Stolen Generations, Doris Pilkington Garimara
Collection: 2000S Drama Films, 2002 Films, Aboriginal Cinema in Australia, Adventure Drama Films, Australian Drama Films, Australian Films, Australian Independent Films, English-Language Films, Film Scores by Peter Gabriel, Films About Racism, Films Based on Actual Events, Films Based on Non-Fiction Books, Films Directed by Phillip Noyce, Films Set in the 1930S, Films Set in Western Australia, Films Shot in Adelaide, Independent Films, Indigenous Australian Media, Miramax Films, Stolen Generations
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Rabbit-Proof Fence (film)

Rabbit-Proof Fence
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Phillip Noyce
Produced by Phillip Noyce
Christine Olsen
John Winter
Screenplay by Christine Olsen
Based on Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence 
by Doris Pilkington
Starring Everlyn Sampi
Kenneth Branagh
David Gulpilil
Music by Peter Gabriel
Cinematography Christopher Doyle
Edited by Veronika Jenet
John Scott
Distributed by Miramax Films
Release dates
  • 4 February 2002 (2002-02-04)
Running time
93 minutes[1]
Country Australia
Language Aboriginal
Budget USD$6 million
Box office USD$16.2 million

Rabbit-Proof Fence is a 2002 Australian drama film directed by Phillip Noyce based on the book Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington Garimara. It is loosely based on a true story concerning the author's mother Molly, as well as two other mixed-race Aboriginal girls, who ran away from the Moore River Native Settlement, north of Perth, Western Australia, to return to their Aboriginal families, after being placed there in 1931. The film follows the Aboriginal girls as they walk for nine weeks along 1,500 miles (2,400 km) of the Australian rabbit-proof fence to return to their community at Jigalong, while being pursued by white law enforcement authorities and an Aboriginal tracker.[2]

The soundtrack to the film, called Long Walk Home: Music from the Rabbit-Proof Fence, is by Peter Gabriel. British producer Jeremy Thomas, who has a long connection with Australia, was executive producer of the film, selling it internationally through his sales arm, HanWay Films.


  • Plot 1
    • Epilogue 1.1
  • Cast 2
  • Production 3
  • Release 4
  • Controversy 5
  • Reception 6
    • Critical response 6.1
    • Box office 6.2
    • Accolades 6.3
      • Wins 6.3.1
      • Nominations 6.3.2
  • See also 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9


Set in 1931, two sisters, 14-year-old Molly and 8-year-old Daisy, and their 10-year-old cousin Gracie live in the Western Australian town of Jigalong. The town lies along the northern part of Australia's rabbit-proof fence, which runs for several thousand miles.

Thousands of miles away, the official Protector of Western Australian Aborigines, A. O. Neville (called Mr. Devil by them), signs an order to relocate the three girls to his re-education camp. The children are referred to by Neville as "half-castes", because they have one white and one Aboriginal parent. Neville's reasoning is portrayed as: the Aboriginal peoples of Australia are a danger to themselves, and the "half-castes" must be bred out of existence. He plans to place the girls in a camp where they, along with all half-castes of that age range, will grow up. They will then presumably become labourers and servants to white families, regarded as a "good" situation for them in life. Eventually if they marry, it will be to white people and thus the Aboriginal "blood" will diminish. As such, the three girls are forcibly taken from Jigalong by a local constable, Riggs, and sent to camp at the Moore River Native Settlement, in the south.

Map of the rabbit-proof fence showing the trip from Moore River to Jigalong.

During their time at the camp, Molly notices a rain cloud in the sky and deduces that if she, Gracie and Daisy were to escape and go back to Jigalong on foot, the rain will cover their tracks, so nobody can track them. Gracie and Daisy decide to go along with Molly and the three girls sneak off, without being noticed and run away. Moments after their escape, an Aboriginal tracker, Moodoo, is called in to find them. However, the girls are well trained in disguising their tracks. They evade Moodoo several times, receiving aid from strangers in the harsh Australian country they travel. They eventually find the rabbit-proof fence, knowing they can follow it north to Jigalong. Neville soon figures out their strategy and sends Moodoo and Riggs after them. Although he is an experienced tracker, Moodoo is unable to find them.

Neville spreads word that Gracie's mother is waiting for her in the town of Wiluna. The information finds its way to an Aboriginal traveller who "helps" the girls. He tells Gracie about her mother and says they can get to Wiluna by train, causing her to break off from the group and attempt to catch a train to Wiluna. Molly and Daisy soon walk after her and find her at a train station. They are not reunited, however, as Riggs appears and Gracie is recaptured. The betrayal is revealed by Riggs, who tells the man he will receive a shilling for his help. Knowing they are powerless to aid her, Molly and Daisy continue on. In the end, after a harsh long journey, the two sisters make it home and go into hiding in the desert with their mother and grandmother. Meanwhile, Neville realizes he can no longer afford the search for Molly and Daisy and decides to suspend the pursuit.


The film's epilogue shows recent footage of Molly and Daisy. Molly explains that Gracie has died and she never returned to Jigalong. Molly also tells us of her own two daughters; she and they were taken from Jigalong back to Moore River. She managed to escape with one daughter, Annabelle, and once again, she walked the length of the fence back home. However, when Annabelle was 3 years old, she was taken away once more, and Molly never saw her again. In closing, Molly says that she and Daisy "... are never going back to that place".



The film is adapted from the book Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence, by Doris Pilkington Garimara, which is the second book of her trilogy documenting her family's stories.[3]


The film stirred debate over the historical accuracy of the claims of the Stolen Generation.[4][5][6] Andrew Bolt,[7][8][9] a conservative journalist who has frequently attempted to downplay the facts of the "Stolen Generation", criticised Neville's portrayal in the film, arguing that he was inaccurately represented as paternalistic and racist, and the film's generally rosy portrayal of the girls' situation prior to their removal from their parents.[7] Bolt questioned the artistic portrayal in the film of the girls as prisoners in prison garb. He claimed they would have been dressed in European clothes, as shown in contemporary photos, and says they were tracked by concerned adults fearful for their welfare.[7] He claimed that when Molly Craig saw the film, which portrayed her journey, she stated that it was "not my story". However, she clarified that statement by saying her story continued into her adult life and was not nicely resolved, as the film's ending made it appear.[10]


The historian Keith Windschuttle states that the events that are portrayed appear to distort the history of the treatment of aboriginal children generally. He states that the children in the film were in fact uncared for, and having underage sex with whites. Windschuttle notes that Neville's speech about extinguishing the aboriginal race is fabricated and has no historical evidence.[11]

The film is largely based on a book by the protagonist's daughter which says that the girls left voluntarily.[12][13] The film is widely shown in Australian schools. Conservative commentator and radio broadcaster Andrew Bolt notes that there is little attempt to analyse the historical basis for it.[14]

Windschuttle states that the forcible removal of Aboriginal children was quite rare in the early twentieth century, and was almost always done for the benefit of the children.[15]


Critical response

The film received positive reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a rating of 88% based on 138 reviews, with an average rating of 7.6 out of 10. The site's consensus states, "Visually beautiful and well-acted, Rabbit-Proof Fence tells a compelling true-life story."[16] On Metacritic the film has a score of 80 out of 100, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[17]

David Stratton of SBS awarded the film four stars out of five, commenting that Rabbit-Proof Fence is a "bold and timely film about the stolen generations."[18]

Box office

Rabbit-Proof Fence grossed US$3,756,418 in Australia, and $6,199,600 in the United States. Worldwide, it grossed $16,217,411.[19][20]


Selected accolades.


2001 – Queensland Premier's Literary Awards.[21]
  • Film Script—the Pacific Film and Television Commission Award (Christine Olsen)[22]
2002 – Australian Film Institute Awards[23]
2002 – Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards[24]
  • Best Director (Phillip Noyce)
  • Best Screenplay—Adapted (Christine Olsen)
2002 – Inside Film Awards[25]
2002 – New South Wales Premier's History Awards[26]
2002 (USA) – Aspen Filmfest[27]
2002 (Switzerland) – Castellinaria International Festival of Young Cinema,[29]
  • ASPI Award (Phillip Noyce)
  • Golden Castle (Phillip Noyce)
2002 (USA) – The 2002 Starz Encore Denver International Film Festival[30]
  • People's Choice Award: Best Feature-Length Fiction Film (Phillip Noyce)
2002 (South Africa) – Durban International Film Festival[31]
  • Audience Award (Phillip Noyce)
2002 (UK) – Edinburgh International Film Festival[32]
  • Audience Award (Phillip Noyce)
2002 (UK) – Leeds International Film Festival[33]
  • Audience Award (Phillip Noyce)
2002 (USA) – National Board of Review Awards 2002[34]
  • Freedom of Expression Award
  • Best Director (Phillip Noyce)
2002 (USA) – San Francisco Film Critics Circle[35]
  • Special Citation (Phillip Noyce, also for The Quiet American (2002))
  • Audience Award: Best Foreign Film (Phillip Noyce)
2002 (Spain) – Valladolid International Film Festival[36]
  • Audience Award: Feature Film (Phillip Noyce)
2003 (UK) – London Critics Circle Film Awards (ALFS)[37]
  • Director of the Year (Phillip Noyce, also for The Quiet American (2002))
2003 (Brazil) – São Paulo International Film Festival[38]
  • Audience Award: Best Foreign Film (Phillip Noyce)


2002 (Australia)
Australian Film Institute Nominations[39]
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role (David Gulpilil)
  • Best Cinematography (Christopher Doyle)
  • Best Costume Design (Roger Ford)
  • Best Direction (Phillip Noyce)
  • Best Editing (Veronika Jenet, John Scott)
  • Best Production Design (Roger Ford)
  • Best Screenplay Adapted from Another Source (Christine Olsen)
2002 (Australia)
Film Critics Circle of Australia Nominations[24] Australia
2002 (Poland)
Camerimage—2002 International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography[40]
2002 (USA)
Golden Trailer Award Nominations[41]
  • Golden Trailer: Best Independent
2003 (USA)
Golden Globe Nominations[42]
  • Golden Globe: Best Original Score—Motion Picture (Peter Gabriel)
2003 (USA)
Motion Picture Sound Editors Nomination[43]
  • Golden Reel Award: Best Sound Editing in Foreign Features (Juhn Penders, Craig Carter, Steve Burgess, Ricky Edwards, Andrew Plain)
2003 (USA)
Political Film Society Awards[44]
  • Exposé
  • Human Rights
2003 (USA)
Young Artist Awards[45]
  • Best Performance in a Feature Film—Supporting Young Actress (Everlyn Sampi)
  • Best Performance in a Feature Film—Young Actress Age Ten or Under (Tianna Sansbury)

See also


  1. ^ (PG)"Rabbit-Proof Fence".  
  2. ^ "Rabbit-Proof Fence Title Details". National Film and Sound Archive. Retrieved 28 July 2007. 
  3. ^ Brewster, Anne (2007). "The Stolen Generations: Rites of Passage: Doris Pilkington interviewed by Anne Brewster (22 January 2005)". The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 42 (1): 143–159.  
  4. ^ Fickling, David (25 October 2002). "Film: The stolen ones". The Guardian (London). 
  5. ^ Byrnes, Paul. "Curator's notes Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)". ASO. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  6. ^ Howson, Peter; Moore, Des (11 March 2002). "A rabbit-proof fence full of holes". The Australian. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c Bolt, Andrew (16 November 2002). "Rabbit-Proof Fence: how the film lied". Herald Sun. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  8. ^ McIntosh, Ian S. (11 March 2004). "'"Australian Journalist Questions 'Stolen Generation. ENIAR. Archived from the original on 7 June 2004. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  9. ^ Bolt, Andrew (16 December 2009). "Take down this Rabbit-Proof Fence". Herald Sun. Retrieved 8 August 2013. 
  10. ^ "film commentary by director Phillip Noyce". 
  11. ^ Windschuttle, Keith (May 2010). "The Ten Big Fictions of Rabbit-Proof Fence". The Stolen Generations. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  12. ^ Pilkington, Doris (1996). Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence. 
  13. ^ Windschuttle, Keith (8 March 2010). "The holes in the rabbit-proof fence".  
  14. ^ Bolt, Andrew (16 December 2009). "Take down this Rabbit-Proof Fence".  
  15. ^ Windschuttle, Keith. The Fabrication of Aboriginal History. 
  16. ^ Rabbit-Proof Fence at Rotten Tomatoes
  17. ^ Rabbit-Proof Fence at Metacritic
  18. ^ Stratton, David. "Rabbit-Proof Fence (review)".  
  19. ^ "Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) – International Box Office Results".  
  20. ^ "Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002)".  
  21. ^ "Premier's Literary Awards website". 29 June 2007. 
  22. ^ "Queensland Premier's Literary Awards". 26 June 2007. 
  23. ^ "Australian Film Institute website". 29 June 2007. 
  24. ^ a b "Film Critics Circle of Australia website". 29 June 2007. 
  25. ^ "Lexus Inside Film Awards website". 29 June 2007. 
  26. ^ "NSW Premier's History Awards 2002". NSW Ministry for the Arts. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 17 July 2007. 
  27. ^ "Aspen Film website". 28 June 2007. 
  28. ^ "2002 Aspen Film Awards". 29 June 2007. 
  29. ^ "Castellinaria International Festival of Young Cinema". 29 June 2007. 
  30. ^ "Denver International Film website". 29 June 2007. 
  31. ^ "Durban International Film Festival website". 29 June 2007. 
  32. ^ "Edinburg International Film Festival website". 29 June 2007. 
  33. ^ "Leeds International Film Festival website". 29 June 2007. 
  34. ^ "The National Board of Review, USA website". 29 June 2007. 
  35. ^ "San Francisco Film Critics Circle website". 29 June 2007. 
  36. ^ "Valladolid International Film Festival website". 29 June 2007. 
  37. ^ "The Critics Circle". 29 June 2007. 
  38. ^ "São Paulo International Film Festival website". 29 June 2007. 
  39. ^ "Australian Film Institute website". 29 June 2007. 
  40. ^ "Camerimage website". 29 June 2007. 
  41. ^ "Golden Trailer Awards website". 29 June 2007. 
  42. ^ "Golden Globe Awards website". 29 June 2007. 
  43. ^ "Motion Picture Sound Editor website". 29 June 2007. 
  44. ^ "Political Film Society website". 29 June 2007. Archived from the original on 21 August 2007. 
  45. ^ "Young Artists Award website". 29 June 2007. 

External links

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